Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Ehud Barak’s Tangled Legacy

November 28, 2012 12:58 pm 0 comments

Ehud Barak (right) with US Army Col. Thomas Jordan in 1999. Photo: wiki commons.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak – heroic military commander, failed politician, and bane of Jewish settlers – has announced his intention to resign from public office after the January election. Having severed his roots in the Labor Party, and with his tiny Independence Party unlikely to win enough votes to return him to the Knesset, Barak chose to call it a career – maybe.

Renowned as Israel’s most decorated soldier, Barak achieved military distinction as head of the Special Forces unit Sayeret Matkal that conducted commando attacks against terrorists during the 1970s. In its most stunningly successful raid, leaders of the PLO and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were tracked down and killed in Beirut in retaliation for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. (The film “Munich” captured the heroic audacity of the mission.)

Barak’s subsequent service as military chief of staff proved to be his launching pad to politics in 1995, when he became Prime Minister Rabin’s Minister of Internal Affairs. Three months later, after Rabin’s assassination, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs, then leader of the Labor Party and, in 1999, he defeated incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu to become Prime Minister.

But Barak, like Rabin before him and his successor Ariel Sharon, demonstrated that military victories do not guarantee political success. Indeed, his brief term in office – the shortest of any Israeli prime minister – was a dismal failure. Ending Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, he opened the way for Hezbollah to become entrenched on its northern border, where it remains. Reiterating the standard left-wing trope that if Israel retained the territories that it won in the Six-Day War it would become either a bi-national or apartheid state, Barak chased peace negotiations with Yasir Arafat’s PLO.

Imagining that Palestinians were prepared for “a durable and lasting peace” with Israel, Barak participated in the Camp David summit fiasco, where Arafat rejected his astonishing offer to divide Jerusalem and relinquish 92% of biblical Judea and Samaria. One year later, after the eruption of the Second Intifada, Barak was resoundingly defeated by Ariel Sharon.

As Defense Minister (since 2007), Barak approved the destruction of Syria’s nuclear reactor, presided over Operation Cast Lead, and authorized the recent assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. But his evident animosity to settlers repeatedly turned Jews against Jews. He supported Netanyahu’s capitulation to President Obama with a ten-month settlement freeze, even urging a two-month extension to further appease the President. Under Israeli law the Defense Minister must sign permits for Jews to purchase property in Judea and Samaria. In an interview earlier this year he boasted: “Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this government is in power.”

Barak’s unrelenting hostility to settlers, and his determination to override their legal rights of property ownership, was most evident in Hebron. He repeatedly stymied efforts to rebuild the ancient Jewish community that was brutally destroyed during the Arab pogrom of 1929. As Prime Minister he had refused to issue building permits that his predecessor had authorized. As Defense Minister, he twice mobilized the army and police to evict residents from apartments on land purchased by a Jew in 1807. Referring to Hebron Jews as “cancerous tumors,” he pledged to “uproot this evil from our midst.”

In 2008, months after Jewish families moved into a building purchased from a willing Palestinian seller, the Defense Minister fulfilled his promise. Despite a video of the transaction that showed the seller receiving and counting his money, a cassette recording of his confirmation of the sale to a friend, and affirmation of the legality of the purchase by police investigators, Barak remained adamant.

Convinced that the presence of Jews in Hebron represented “attempts by small groups of radicals to undermine the authority of the state,” he ordered hundreds of soldiers and border police to storm the building and evict its residents. Two months ago a Jerusalem court finally upheld the legality of the purchase and ordered the government to return the property to its rightful Jewish owners.

At the moment Ehud Barak’s illustrious career in military and public life seems to be nearing its end. But come January, once the election results are in, a call from Prime Minister Netanyahu to return to the Defense Ministry just might be irresistible. Israeli politics has more encores than a rock concert.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Against the Grain: A Historian’s Journey (Quid Pro Books).

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief by Asaf Romirowsky & Alexander H. Joffe (Palgrave Macmillan; 2013) Although this book came out several years ago, it remains pertinent. This is a meticulously researched book that concentrates on a very small bit of history: the time period from 1948-50 when the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, was organizing refugee relief in Gaza. Before UNRWA, the UN created the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). It outsourced […]

    Read more →